By Charmain BrackettApril 17, 2009
FORT GORDON, Ga.--(April 15, 2009) Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rhodes spent 30 months in Iraq from April 2003 to November 2005. Although he returned physically sound, the trauma of seeing bodies on the side of the roads, the horrors of losing 37 Soldiers including two to suicide in theater and the fear of attack took its toll on Rhodes mentally and emotionally.
"The easiest way to let it go is to talk about it," said Rhodes, who retired in January and spoke about his battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at Alexander Hall April 13.
As a leader, said Rhodes, it was difficult to admit he was suffering from PTSD. In April 2007, however, he reached a turning point. He was depressed to the point of suicide, and he realized he needed help. While sitting waiting for an appointment at Martin Army Community Hospital one day, he had several young Soldiers ask him why he was there. Was he there for one of his Soldiers' was the question he was asked.
His answer was "no." He was there for treatment for himself. He said it opened up the dialogue, and he found many of the young Soldiers telling him about their experiences. In keeping with the Army tradition of leaving no one behind, Rhodes encouraged those in the audience not to leave anyone behind when it came to PTSD as well.
"Everyone should have a buddy," he said. For some Soldiers, it's a spouse; for others, it's another Soldier."
Rhodes explained those who know the Soldier best can be the one to help the most by suggesting they get help when they notice all is not well with the Soldier.
"Those with PTSD often exhibit other health problems; because they are depressed and are not taking care of themselves, they may suffer from excessive weight gain and have heart disease or high blood pressure," he said.
Rhodes has talked to others who've considered suicide, and he has a message for them.
"Think about all the people who love you. Do you want to put them through all that'," he said.
Although he's received treatment for PTSD, Rhodes said he doesn't believe anyone can be cured of it. The symptoms will always be there, he said, it's just how the person deals with them that can change.
In addition to making connections with other people and having a buddy, he offered other tips in dealing with PTSD.
-Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable.
-Accept change as part of life.
-Move ahead with realistic goals.
-Look for opportunities of self-discovery.
-Nurture a positive view of yourself.